Slovakia PM Robert Fico in stable but serious condition after shooting, doctors say

Slovakia PM Robert Fico

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a stable but serious condition after being shot several times on Wednesday, doctors have said.

Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak added that Mr Fico’s injuries were “complicated”.

Earlier Mr Fico, 59, was said to have been fighting for his life after being gravely injured in the attack in the small town of Handlova.

A suspect was detained at the scene of the shooting.

“During the night doctors managed to stabilise the patient’s condition,” Mr Kalinak, who is also the defence minister, said, adding: “Unfortunately the condition is still very serious as the injuries are complicated.”

Previously, another Deputy Prime Minister, Tomas Taraba, told the BBC Mr Fico’s surgery had gone “well” and “I guess that at the end he will survive”.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estoka described it as a politically motivated assassination attempt.

Mr Fico is a divisive figure at home – and controversial in the EU – for his calls to end military aid to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.

But condemnation of the shooting has come from far and wide and it has been described as an attack on democracy.

Gunman fired at close range

The gunman was in a small crowd of Fico supporters who were gathered outside a cultural centre in Handlova, where the prime minister had been holding a meeting.

The shooting took Mr Fico’s security officers completely by surprise. Footage shows the prime minister after he was shot being carried by several officers, who bundle him into a car and drive him away from the scene.

The gunman fired five shots at close range and Mr Fico was hit in the stomach and in the arm.

Following the shooting, he was rushed to hospital and spent several hours in surgery “fighting for his life”, according to Defence Minister Robert Kalinak.

There has been no official update on the prime minister’s condition since then, but his second-in-command has since told the BBC’s Newshour programme that Mr Fico was “not in [a] life-threatening situation at this moment”.

“As far as I know, the operation went well and I guess that at the end he will survive,” Mr Taraba said.

Mr Taraba added that the prime minister was shot “from very close” and that “one bullet went through the stomach and the second one hit the joint”.

Police have not yet identified the alleged suspect. Unconfirmed local media reports say he was a 71-year-old writer and political activist.

A video being widely circulated on Slovak media purports to feature the suspect.

In the footage, the man says he disagrees with government policy and its stance towards state media. The BBC does not know if the person in the video is the perpetrator who was detained at the scene nor the circumstances under which it was filmed.

The shooting came on the day parliament began discussing the government’s proposal to abolish Slovakia’s public broadcaster RTVS.

Thousands of Slovaks have protested against the proposed reform of the public broadcaster in recent weeks. However, a planned opposition-led demonstration was called off on Wednesday as news of the shooting emerged.

Getty Images Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico being transported from a helicopter by medics to the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where he is to be treated after he had been shot "multiple times"
Slovakia’s prime minister was airlifted to a hospital in Banska Bystrica and underwent several hours of surgery

In his interview with the BBC, Deputy Prime Minister Taraba blamed “false narratives” by opposition parties in Slovakia for the shooting.

“Our prime minister several times mentioned in the past that he was afraid that this would happen,” Mr Taraba said in another interview with the BBC’s World Tonight programme.

According to him, Mr Fico had warned that the way in which “the government was attacked by false narratives can overheat the reaction of people and lead to something like this”.

Parliament was sitting at the time of the attack and Slovak media reported that a party colleague of Mr Fico’s shouted at opposition MPs, accusing them of stoking the attack.

And Interior Minister Mr Estok accused the media of contributing to the climate that led to the 59-year-old’s shooting, telling a press conference: “Many of you were those who were sowing this hatred.”

Mr Estok added that he believed “this assassination [attempt] was politically motivated”.

Reacting to news of the attack, Slovakia’s outgoing President Zuzana Caputova said something “so serious had happened that we can’t even realise it yet”.

“The hateful rhetoric we witness in society leads to hateful acts,” she added.

Slovakia’s state security council is due to convene and the government will also meet on Thursday morning following the assassination attempt.

Mr Fico returned to power in Slovakia after elections last September, as the head of a populist-nationalist coalition.

His first few months as prime minister have proved highly contentious, both in Slovakia and in the EU. In January he halted military aid to Ukraine and last month pushed through plans to abolish RTVS.

Slovakia map showing Handlova, where the prime minister was shot on Wednesday 15 May 2024.

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